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H Street Life

We may be headed into the dog days of summer, but that’s no reason to sulk. Festival season is just around the corner and in the meantime, there’s plenty to do indoors should the heat become too much to bear.

Food, Friends, & Fun at the H Street Festival September 15
Mark your calendars for the return of the H Street Festival to the corridor September 15th. From its early days as a block party style gathering, it has grown into a mammoth event. It’s a day for businesses along the strip to showcase themselves as they welcome locals and visitors who travel from all around the region for a day of fun and exploration. Repeatedly named Best Neighborhood Festival in Washington City Paper reader polls, the H Street Festival is definitely one celebration you won’t want to miss. Live music always plays a big role in the fun, with plenty of dancing in the audience and on the many stages spread throughout the Festival. Offerings are generally diverse, and with multiple stages, it’s not uncommon for 100 or more different entertainers to make an appearance. The kids zone will return, as well as a section of the Festival focused on the visual arts.

There will, of course, be many outdoor beer gardens. Save your spot early, as these tend to get crowded. The food has always played a starring role, from the popular eating contests to the many new places opting over the years to open for a public preview on Festival day.

The colorful eggplant bowl at Shouk. Photo: Elise Bernard

Eat & Your Veggies & Love it at Shouk
Just around the corner from the Trader Joe’s and near the recently opened Blue Bottle Coffee and Pluma Bakery you’ll find a new outpost of the fast-casual eatery Shouk (395 Morse St. NE, www.shouk.com). Co-founders Ran Nussbacher and Dennis Friedman opened the original Chinatown location in 2016. Shouk deals in what it calls “modern Israeli street food,” which translates here into a menu of pita sandwiches, rice and lentil bowls ($9.75), and salads with plenty of tahina and harissa along for the ride. Shouk’s menu is heavy on the vegetables and plant based proteins, in fact everything the menu offers is completely vegan. It’s also completely delicious. If you’re not sure what to order on your first visit, I recommend starting with the crowd-pleasing sweet potato fries ($4.50) served with Shouk’s addictive cashew labneh. Thankfully, the labneh is also available in larger containers in the restaurant’s market area along with Shouk’s almond feta, harissa, black lentil spread, hummus, and house-made soups.

The Shouk burger is one the Washington Post called “our favorite new veggie burger in Washington” back in 2016. It’s a satisfying veggie patty accompanied by roasted tomato, pickled turnip, charred onion, arugula, and tahini. All the main options I tried were winners, including the new eggplant pita, a grilled eggplant patty served in a pita stuffed with thin potato slices, pickled cabbage, grilled onions, roasted red peppers, tahini, and amba (a pickled mango sauce). Wash it down with a soda, juice, or one of the beers on tap. If you’re still hungry, try the lemon date balls ($4) or a choco-cardamom cookie ($2). 

H Street NE Starbucks to Become a Signing Store
A local Starbucks (625 H St. NE B) is slated to become the chain’s first signing store in North America. As a signing store, all employees will be fluent in American Sign Language, commonly referred to as ASL. The shop is located only a few blocks from Gallaudet University (800 Florida Avenue NE) an institution internationally known for its education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and as an epicenter of Deaf culture. To staff the store Starbucks will hire 20–25 deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing partners from across the country with the requirement that each be proficient in ASL. With this launch Starbucks joins a growing swell of local businesses along the H Street NE Corridor, and in the nearby Union Market area, that have taken steps to make themselves more accessible to the large Deaf community in the nearby neighborhoods.

Incorporating elements of Deafspace, an architectural and design movement born at Gallaudet, the H Street NE signing store will provide an open environment minimizing visual obstructions that could interfere with communication, and will employ low glare reflective surfaces. Deaf baristas will sport ASL aprons embroidered by a Deaf supplier, and hearing employees will wear “I Sign” pins. The store will offer communications options for customers when placing their orders or receiving beverages at the pick-up counter. This location will also feature artwork and a custom mug designed by a Deaf artist. The changes will be fully implemented in October.

Politics and Prose has everything you need to catch up on summer reading. Photo: Elise Bernard

Politics and Prose Opens a New Chapter in Union Market District
In mid-June Politics and Prose (1270 Fifth St. NE) opened its shop in the Union Market neighborhood. This is the third location for the District-based independent bookseller.

The store is necessarily cozy, but still stocks a great variety of books, other reading materials, and cool tchotchkes. Politics and Prose has already begun hosting author talks, classes, and children’s activities at this location. The bookseller has teamed up with Keegan Theatre to host Story Hours at 10:30 A.M. on the third Tuesday of each month, from September through December of 2018. The target audience for the free programs is six years of age and under. Story hours will feature dramatic readings of beloved children’s books and activities led by professional teaching artists that will explore relevant themes, such as storytelling, the nature of bravery, and the value of diversity. August’s book is A Hippy Hoppy Toad by Peggy Archer and Anne Wilsdorf.


For more on what’s abuzz on, and around, H Street NE, you can visit my blog at http://frozentropics.blogspot.com. You can send me tips or questions at elise.bernard@gmail.com.

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